Monday, April 26, 2010

Kindergarten Court

(Post by Bacon)
A loosely based People's Court parody done with Taiwanese kindergarten students.
Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Kitten

(Post by Bacon)
Well it was only a matter of time until we found another kitten. This one was outside a construction site down the road. She is about two weeks old and in perfect health. Unfortunately we will be heading back to America and will have to leave this kitten (Mei Mei) and our other cat (Chou Chou) in Taiwan. Fortunately  we have found a happy home for both of them. I made this quick video to document Mei Mei.
Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hualien (Part Two)

Some places are so beautiful that visiting them one time just isn't enough. This is the case with Hualien, Taiwan, located on the eastern coastline. The scenery there is simply stunning; towering green mountains stretch for miles along highway roads as misty clouds roll through the skies. Probably the most breathtaking bit of coastal views we took in were the Cinshuei Cliffs. From heights of almost 1000m, they plunge straight into the teal waters of the Pacific Ocean. The colorful stone beach below is made up entirely of marble, rocks, and pebbles. This spot goes down as one of the most beautiful places we've ever visited.

While there, we also visited Taroko Gorge again. It's hard to capture the sheer magnitude of the marble cliffs and winding river gorge. From the jade-colored pools of falling water to the wide span of ferns jutting from the rock face, we definitely understand why it's labeled one of the most beautiful places in Asia to travel through.

The last day we were there, our group of friends met up with some other foreigners from our hostel and we all went on a white-water rafting trip down the Xiuguluan River in Rui-Sui, an area a little south of Hualien. The trip down the incredibly scenic river started out mild while we all got used to paddling as a group and going down mini-rapids. About an hour and half in, we took a break for a classic Taiwanese lunch of rice, tofu, meat, and veggies called biandang, or lunch box. After the break the second part of the trip began and the river really started to get fun. We paddled down crazy rapids, whooshed down small waterfalls, and maneuvered our way through some rocky spots- we almost tipped our boat on a huge rock formation when when crashed into the side of it and went spinning. Our river guide was hilarious, and he kept zipping by us in his speed raft to splash us and try to trip us up. Unfortunately we couldn't take any pictures, but we had a great time.

Random highlight: I mentioned to my friend Elle that a life-long goal of mine was to pick and eat a banana off a wild banana tree. When we were scooting back from the Gorge on Saturday, Elle shrieked and made us all pull over. She spotted some banana trees on the side of the road and I finally got to taste my dream!

Less than three weeks and we'll be Stateside again- see you soon!
Monday, April 5, 2010

Quick Pic of the Day

(Post by Alisha)
On Saturday we took in some sweeping views of Taipei from one of the tallest ferris wheels in Taiwan. It was a pretty night and a cute way to see the city.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

One Year in Taiwan!

(Post by Alisha)
“Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to.”
– Alan Keightly

I thought this quote was apt in describing the way I feel about the year spent living in Taiwan. I'm so glad that "once in a while" came for me. This experience truly changed my outlook on the world and the ways in which I want to expand that perspective. I no longer feel pressure to subscribe to any lifestyle that doesn't challenge or creatively inspire me to live life with a deeper fulfillment of it. So while I feel conflicted about leaving, I know that Taiwan was just the first of many steps in my travels and experiences in this great, big, world.
(Photo credit: Elle McManus)
Monday, March 22, 2010

Wulai Hot Springs Video

Wuliaojian Hiking Video

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Shrimp Fishing

(Post by Bacon)
Back home, I used to mock places that made you pay to catch stocked fish in a small pond. I believe it's a lame concept for two reasons:
1 - What's the fun in catching something that's already been caught?
2 - Everyone knows that hunting man is the ultimate game.

Well these rules don't apply to Taiwan shrimp fishing because it's awesome. In Taiwan, there are a massive amount of shrimping places that consist of a large grubby building and an indoor pool. The pool is about 10ft x 30ft, and the water is colored dark green so you can't see the shrimp (because that would make it too easy). You simply go into the building, pay for your fishing time, buy a few beers, and channel your inner Benjamin Buford Blue (Bubba).

Catching the shrimp is rather straight forward. On your pole you have two small hooks where you bait two small, dried shrimp. It was really fun to catch our first shrimp until we discovered you needed to grab them tightly to get the hook out. It's a little more difficult than unhooking a fish, and it didn't help that I hate touching crustaceans (the insects of the sea). These things aren't small either, and some of them had pretty big pinchers. But whenever we were having trouble, a local was more than happy to come over and help us out.

Probably the best part of Taiwan shrimp fishing is the locals. They seem to really enjoy this activity, and watching a foreigner struggle to do something they find so easy seems to be great entertainment for them. The atmosphere is very similar to a bowling ally back home. Some people take it extremely seriously and are very skilled. Others view it as a joke, and after a few failed attempts, just start to have fun with it. And like bowling, it's a popular thing to do on weekend nights for a group of friends, a family, or a couple on a date. After your time's up, you get to clean them, salt them, and grill them up right there for some of the freshest shrimp you've ever had.

So if you want to feel like a local while looking ridiculous, I would recommend this to get a taste of Taiwan.

Hiking Wuliaojian

(Post by Alisha)
Whenever a hike comes with prerequisites, you know it's going to be an interesting experience. Some information we found on Wuliaojian warned that attempting hikers should be in good physical condition, wear gloves, and, above all, avoid the trek on a windy or rainy day. While we weren't quite sure we fit a hiker's definition of "peak climbing condition," we were excited to challenge ourselves and try a hike that was actually located in the backyard of our own Sanxia.

The hike started off steep and narrow, and, a few minutes in, we discovered the reason for the gloves. The trail is covered with knotted ropes that you need to use to pull yourself up over rocky walls and steep terrain. It was definitely a workout literally climbing up and up through this tropical, bamboo-lush mountain. Most of the trails we've hiked thus far have clearly marked signs, paths, or even steps, but this was one that was definitely off the map. Thanks to flags and markers left by other hikers, however, we never got lost.

After a little over three hours, the trail started to level out as we approached the ridge. This was the highlight of our trip: we were on the exposed spine of the mountain. The ridge was extremely skinny, from the vertigo-inducing few inches of width to the relative safety of one to two feet . On both sides of the spine was a pretty sheer drop, and there was only a simple rope path on our right for us to hold on to as we made our way across. After taking in some gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains, we found out that the only way to get back was by repelling down a steep cliff wall. It didn't seem so bad to me at first, but I soon found out that going backwards when you're almost vertical with the mountain (with no harnesses or safety equipment,) is a little bit more difficult. It felt like forever (even though it probably only took about 5 minutes) and my arms were sore afterwards, but it was such a cool experience. After that, we had an easier hike back down and were back on level ground in about an hour. This one goes down as my favorite climb by far.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010

More Taiwan Driving

(post by Bacon)
A few weeks ago I posted my Taiwan driving video. I thought it would give people a good example of what driving in Taiwan is like. Well, I found an awesome video on YouTube that I think does an even better job. It's called "Taiwan Drift" and it was posted by changster1.
Sunday, March 7, 2010

Yangmingshan Flower Festival

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year! It's the year of the powerful and passionate Tiger, (my year!) which should help in warding off thieves, fire, and ghosts- the latter being a very troublesome but important aspect of Taiwanese religious beliefs. CNY in Taiwan is similar to Christmas back home; people clear out of town to visit family, take a vacation they've been planning all year, and participate in age-old traditions like the giving of "hongbaos," red envelopes full of money. The main difference is that the ringing in our ears is not from sleigh bells jingling; it's from fireworks exploding. Of course no Taiwanese holiday would be complete without excessive sparkling explosives- they have literally been going off all week during all hours of the day and night. This is in no small part due to the fact that they are extremely accessible and completely legal, even the ones that look like mini-missiles.

It's been great to have the week off school, but unfortunately the weather has been some of the worst we've had so far- cold, wet, and rainy. Therefore a lot of the plans we had for this week had to be abandoned. Instead of going camping, hiking, and day-tripping, we spent a lot of quality time together just relaxing and rejuvenating. We did find an amazing center that houses a huge selection of Taiwanese handicrafts and works of art from all around the island. It was great to find some beautiful and hand-made items for our friends and family back home.

It's really hard to believe that we're down to the last two months of our year living abroad. These last days will be spent doing all the things we still want to do and journeying to all places we still want to go. In the line-up is a trip to Orchid Island, a ride on Alishan Forest Railway- one of the most spectacular mountain-railways in the world, and a visit down South to the tropical beaches of Kenting. Hopefully we'll have some exciting updates for all of you soon!

*Update: This post is a few weeks late- I got a little behind on posting it- but Chinese New Year lasts through February and most of March, so it's still relevant. The weather is also now in the 80's with sunshine- it changed just in time for our vacation to end.

Taiwanese TV

(Post by Bacon)
Back home I used to watch way too much television. I really only had a few shows that I would want to watch on the DVR and then after that I would channel surf. In Taiwan any American show I want to see I can watch online, but any kind of casual watching habits I had have now been destroyed by Taiwanese television. The standard show here is filled with unnecessary sound effects, constant graphics popping up, and awkward laughing. Explaining it in words does not give it justice so I decided to just grab a few clips off youtube.

This is the basic Taiwanese formula at work.

Standard commercial formula.

This is actually a Japanese commercial, but it's not any weirder than anything I've seen here.
Sunday, February 14, 2010

Adventures in KTV Land

The people of Taiwan have several favorite pastimes: eating stinky, stinky, stinky tofu, driving like maniacs, and, perhaps most favored of all, KTV-ing (singing karaoke). The latter is something that we generally associate in America with perhaps one too many pitchers of domestic beer and an odd desire to embarrass ourselves publicly. In Taiwan, however, KTV is a little bit of a different matter. You can barely turn a street corner without seeing a Party World or a Holiday- giant buildings devoted solely to the art of singing along with a teleprompter. But it doesn't stop there. Oftentimes you'll be strolling around in Taipei and run into some serious, live KTV action right on the street- we've even witnessed a KTV battle. Oh yes, and talent, you ask? Irrelevant. Just grab a mike and sing your heart out- we've seen, and unfortunately heard, some pretty tone-deaf people draw a huge crowd of devoted listeners.

Well a few weeks ago we were finally convinced by our Taiwanese friend to give this whole phenomenon a try. So we got a group together and headed out to Taipei. First we stopped at a night market to load up on cheap and tasty goodies- dumplings, spicy crab legs (a whole box for under $4 U.S.), sweet potato fries, noodles, and chicken soup.

An awesome thing about these big venues like Party World is that you actually rent your own private room. We had a wrap-around leather couch, bathroom, bar, flat-screen, and of course, all the KTV equipment we could want- song lists, stage, mikes, etc. We had this room reserved for around four hours and it only cost $15 a person- unbelievable. So far so good- our next concern was that there wouldn't be a decent selection of songs in English. While it was true that a few classics were missing (no Queen?), for the most part we all found some fantastic tunes to belt out in our wonderfully sound-proof room- thus eliminating the humiliation factor. One thing the experience had in common with back home was the drinks. The mini-kegs of Taiwan beer kept us able to stand the sound of each other's voices :) I think we're starting to understand this trend a bit more... 
Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Overdramatic Alphabet Wizard

(Post by Bacon)

It seems like every month at school we have some sort of competition for the kids. Usually it's like a song and dance for the kids to perform. It's supposed to be about the students, but because of the way the school is set up it is really about the teachers. How your students perform can actually affect your bonus down the road. I know it's funny to think that children singing and dancing is connected to monetary gains, but it's true. The classes are set up in a competitive fashion and while most of the English teachers don't take it seriously, some of the Taiwanese teachers do. I made this video to mock the whole thing.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Slow Motion Chou

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Driving in Taiwan Video

Out and about

(Post By Alisha)

Saturday night a few of us went out for a friend's birthday. We found our way to a little hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant tucked down an alleyway in the Shida area (swarming student hang-out). The decor was slightly kitsch, but in a delightful and cozy kind of way. As Bacon and I have never eaten Indian food, our friends recommended a couple of great menu items: we scooped up our yummy tikka masala and eggplant curry with the hot buttery naan bread, and toasted the whole evening with India's famed Kingfisher Beer. I think Bacon and I have a new favorite ethnic eatery...

After that we headed to a casual bar/pool hall called Roxy Jr. Cafe, where we played pool (albeit horribly) and showed off our hand-turning skills during a foosball tournament. The basement was stuffed with over-sized couches and it was a great place to kick-back and relax with friends. Some people complain that Taipei isn't as jam-packed with dynamic night-life as other big cities, but I think they often just don't know where to look.
Thursday, January 14, 2010

New Look & Some Music

(Post By Bacon)

So I finally got around to putting some design work into the blog. I hope these changes make reading our blog more enjoyable. I also have added a menu bar at the top of the page and slideshows to previous blog posts that include more photos.

Click the read more link below to see an updated list of songs that I used in all my videos with an iTunes link.
Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Years Taiwan Video

The Next Video Should Be?

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